Our Austen: Fan Fiction in the Classroom
Back to the Appendix
Louisa Makes a Match
Ilse Snippe, Jolijn Ketelaar, and Marije van der Kooij
In order for a man and a woman to obtain a happy marriage, it is not their similarities that matter most; it is the differences in character which create a strong foundation for a happy and stable connection. Being able to disagree heartily would keep discussions going and keep one’s mind young and fresh. Captain Benwick’s thoughts had run over this notion several times, and he found that people definitely need not think or act alike all the time. In fact, he found himself thinking of a woman who was not intended for him, and whose character was very much unlike his own. In sense and situation, however, she was his equal. After Captain Wentworth had gone to visit his brother in Shropshire, Captain Benwick had taken up the task of reading to Louisa some of the novels recommended to him by Miss Anne Elliot, along with his favorite poetry. Both Louisa and Captain Benwick had developed a fond liking of one particular poem, since it usually led to a conversation about distant shores and their inhabitants. Having sailed the seas and being able to judge the poem on its historical truth, Benwick tried to convince Louisa several times of the poem’s not having a foundation in reality, mostly failing to win the disagreement.
Louisa’s health gradually improved: Captain Benwick’s visits certainly had a calming effect on her. Slowly Louisa regained her strength and was able to be more active, like she was before the accident. Although her strength might have returned, her head injury seemed to have brought upon her a change which Captain Benwick had not noticed before today’s reading and which he found quite agreeable. Oftentimes had he thought about Fanny’s death, and whether he were ever to find someone again with whom he would have a connection as strong and as deep as he had had with Fanny. Miss Elliot would have been an agreeable match for a man of his standing, yet since he had known love and what it could be in its perfect shape, he knew Anne Elliot was not right for him.
Captain Benwick had thought the same of Louisa, the only difference with Miss Elliot being that he had revised his opinion of her. He found himself enjoying her company even though he believed that she would not even consider him as a potential husband. Her behavior towards Captain Wentworth had clearly shown that it would not be long before they were to be wed. Wentworth’s visit to his brother in Shropshire would merely be to inform him of the news and to seek his approval, whilst keeping Louisa in anxiety. Perhaps a secret bond had already been made between Louisa and Captain Wentworth. Captain Benwick only knew that he should enjoy Louisa’s company as long as possible. Captain Wentworth would certainly return to Lyme to visit Louisa, although Louisa had not spoken about any messages from Shropshire about the Captain’s return.
For the moment, Benwick enjoyed reading poetry to her, especially when it elicited a response from Louisa. Most readings were calm and of a contemplative nature, yet today Louisa could hardly wait until the poem was finished to speak her mind. Captain Benwick noticed that Louisa was anxious for him to finish the poem, and he had hardly recited the last lines when she started. She was in raptures about the poem, just like the other times he had read it to her. “Oh how wonderful it would be to see those sights with my own eyes! The beautiful Turkish shores and all those interesting people!” Captain Benwick could not help but smile at this; it was a sad smile, however. Once Louisa was married to Captain Wentworth she would have every chance to see the things she most wished to, and he knew she must be thinking of this exact same thing. “Oh how I would love to sail around the world and see more of it than just this small part,” she said softly.
Captain Benwick did not want to subdue her enthusiasm. He adored the way she showed her youthful eagerness and exhilaration, yet because he knew she was thinking of someone else, he could not stop himself from saying: “Well as I told you last time, Miss Louisa, I have seen a fair bit of this world and not everything in it is as wonderful as one might believe after reading such poems and novels. We must not forget that this is all fiction and reality may prove to be rather different.” “Of course, Captain Benwick, I know that,” she answered and he thought he saw a little sadness in her eyes too. “For the sake of the reader it has all been romanticised, I understand that perfectly. You underestimate me, Captain Benwick.” He smiled and stared out of the window, a melancholy feeling rushing through him again until Louisa spoke once more. “Captain Benwick, tell me about your adventures at sea. You have been so good to me, reading to me like this, and I have learned so much from you about poetry and novels. But now I would love to learn more about reality.”
This sincere curiosity for his and Captain Wentworth’s profession made his talk full of enthusiasm. They talked about the hardships of a sailor’s life but also of the camaraderie on a ship during a long journey and the friendships that arise from this. “You must have a strong friendship with Captain Wentworth?” she asked him. “His friendship is the best a man can wish for. He has supported me through the roughest times.” Captain Benwick knew that Louisa must be thinking about Fanny Harville after he had said this. “Yes, he is a wonderful man,” she said. “Yet I cannot understand him sometimes. The way he is full of warmth and praise to one person and then is full of coldness to another confuses me. Several times I was amazed at how he treated Anne.” Captain Benwick was astonished. There was a doubt in her voice that he had never heard before, and he could not believe she talked about his friend in this manner. He heard nothing of the admiration that was there before her fall. Was it possible she had changed this much?
“Not once have I heard from Captain Wentworth, but I understand that he wrote to Captain Harville to inquire after my health,” continued Louisa. She stopped for a while, realizing they had touched upon the subject they had avoided so carefully until now. She felt that Captain Wentworth’s behavior towards herself before her accident created the general opinion that they must soon be married. To be sure, she rejoiced in that at the time, even though they did not have an understanding yet. However, her accident had made her doubt her feelings. Since that tragic fall she felt so strong a change of character as to doubt whether Captain Wentworth would be an appropriate match. “I deeply regretted the absence of his letters at first, but after a while the pain lessened. You have brightened my days again with your reading, Captain Benwick.”
She paused for a while, looking outside at the sea. She sighed, “I wish I could be as happy as I am here for the rest of my life.” After a few moments, Louisa fully realized, for the first time, that that wish included Captain Benwick’s presence. She blushed and looked down. When she looked up again, Captain Benwick’s and her eyes met. He had noticed her blushing and this convinced him that she was no longer in love with his friend Frederick. They smiled. During the last several weeks, he noticed that she lifted his spirits. Whereas before her stay with the Harvilles he had felt sombre and depressed, he now felt as if he could be happy again and enjoy life. His belief in her attachment to Frederick had kept him from forming a serious attachment, but he was convinced that it was Louisa who made him happy again and he did not want to lose her. “Would you like to take a little stroll at the seaside with me?” he asked, “The fresh air will do you good.” Her recovery was nearly complete, and short walks helped her regain her strength. “I would like that very much,” she answered.
Together they walked to the end of the Cobb, where nothing but an immense sea could be seen. “I do not think I have been as happy as I am now for a long time,” Captain Benwick said. “I must admit, after Fanny’s death I thought my chances at happiness were over.” He turned to Louisa. “But your liveliness has made me happy again, and it has been some days now that I believe we complete each other perfectly.” He took her hands into his. “I have enjoyed your company so very much that I believe I cannot do without it anymore.” Louisa’s eyes brightened and her smile told Benwick his feelings were returned. “I cannot be silent anymore, my dearest Louisa. Would you do me the honor of consenting to be my wife?” “I hardly know what to say, I’m so happy, yes, of course I will marry you.” After spending a little more time at the Cobb, they returned to the house, cherishing the unexpected benefits of Louisa’s fortunate fall.
Back to the Appendix